I wrote a post recently about serial cookie deleters in relation to online tracking http://wp.me/pn6jX-Iw. One of the sources I cited was Jeffrey Rosen’s Sunday NY Times article “Who do they think you are” . I also noted a line in the article that now a week later I cannot stop thinking about a quote from Eli Pariser, author of The Bubble ‘Personalization can lead you down a road to a kind of informational determinism in which what you’ve clicked on in the past determines what you see next – a Web history you’re doomed to repeat. You can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself – an endless you-loop.’ Pandora and Spotify are good examples of feeding back your own preferences to you – it can be good, but not (in my opinion) when it requires the exclusion of being served anything outside of your own historical behavior.
I think there are many people already that are stuck in an endless feedback loop of themselves and for whatever reason I find it to be incredibly disturbing. Viewers of Fox News and Current TV can be included as participating in that endless feedback loop if they never watch any other ‘news’ outlets. Constant reinforcement of the same concepts is so narrowing that it can cause blindness. And that’s a very bad thing.
When I was a kid in grade school I used to go into the library sometimes and stand with my back to the biographies. I’d reach behind me and pull one without looking. They were short and obviously not too long since it was at an elementary school. (Yes I know pretty nerdy). I read a book on Crispus Attucks – American slave and the first casualty of the American Revolution. I also remember reading a book on John Deere and how he started his company that still exists today. Another book on mountain man Jim Bridger has also stuck with me. The point is that I was exposed to biographies and stories I would likely have never chosen to read and probably would not have been assigned in any class.
Having an advertising stream be directed at you solely based on your prior behaviors can at times be useful in showing you something of relevance and in which you might be truly interested. But say no to ONLY being shown things that are based on your prior behaviors. How and where will you learn about new things? How many times have you tried something you thought you’d dislike and found that you actually enjoyed it?
I feel that being open to ideas, experiences and things you’ve never had or seen before is what makes people interesting and breeds yet more new ideas and approaches. Being exposed to a continuing sameness in a feed of ‘information’ that you’ve been, reading, watching, listening to, and talking about, leads to myopic provincialism, and at the same time increases polarization. Today, it seems to me, it is increasingly difficult to have a conversation with someone who does not share your opinion. Too often people wave each other off at best saying they’ll agree to disagree. Or worse, they don’t discuss what are considered to be ‘touchy’ subjects at all.
It doesn’t mean you should try to cover all bases at all times as that is totally impractical. But I cannot think of few worse things than being caught up in only seeing things that an algorithm might think interests me based on my prior behavior. Give me something to look at that I’ve never seen before and I might actually try something new or learn something new. Imagine that.
Are you worried about being caught in an endless feedback loop of yourself?
While I don’t support a totally closed mind, I can’t help but remember the saying: “Too open and your brains fall out.” Too eclectic and you end up with nothing.
Boundaries are necessary, especially for survival in an overloaded and, unfortunately, amoral age. Intellectual curiosity is wonderful when it leads to innovation. But without a framework — identity, belief, lifestyle — it leads to total confusion and distorted thinking, when anything and everything claims relevance. In the real world, I have learned this is not the case. I will not listen to anything that contradicts my core moral values — no matter how artfully presented. Therefore